Igun N’Ugboha Blacksmith Guild
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Written by Ekhaguosa Aisien (Last UpdateApril 5, 2022)

The IGUN N’UGBOHA is a Blacksmith Guild and it is one of the five Blacksmith Guilds in the City of Benin. The Guilds were the Iron Workers of the old Benin. They kept the City technologically self sufficient throughout the centuries of her long history until the advent of British colonialism a century ago. On the shoulders of these guilds rested the metallurgical proficiency of the kingdom an expertise which built up supported and advanced her civilization.

The five City Blacksmith Guilds are:

The IGUN N’ EKHUA or ADAHA is the premier of all the Iron workers Guilds. It shares IGUN Street with Brass workers Guild IGUN ERONMWON whose segment of the Street ends where the Street of the wood and Ivory  Workers. The IGUN N’EKHUA portion of IGUN Street later crossed successively by IWEGIE Street and EYAN-NUGIE Street where the respective Blacksmith Guilds bearing those names are to be found.

The EYAEN NUGIE GUILD is to be found in EYAEN-NUGIE Street, off Akpakpava Road between the parallel Streets of EGUADASE and the FIRST EAST CIRCULAR ROAD.

The IGUN N’ IWEGIE GUILD is to be found in IWEGIE Street which crosses AKPAKPAVA Road and ends by the premises of the OGIEFA NOMUENKPO on FORESTRY (EWAISE) Road. The IGUN N’IWEGIE said to have been constituted this century by Oba AKENZUA II has so far had only a middling growth.

The AIHO IGUN BEKUN Guild is situated in the IBIWE Street wedged between the back of EMOTAN Shrine and the premises of prince Usuanlele where stands the Second Story Building built in Benin. This Guild was a reserve body of Iron workers created to augment the metallurgical facilities available to the palace and kingdom on those occasions when the first City Guilds were unable to cope with the heavy load of works which might arise especially when the kingdom is at war.

The IGUN N’UGBOHA were professionals in the manufacture of the implement of war in the pre-firearms days the Guild made the battle sword  the single –edged scimitar like Umoso of the Benin warriors. This guild made the famous Eluburhudu of prince IDUBOR the Arhanran the first and only Enogie of Udo.

The Portuguese introduced firearms into Benin five hundred years ago. The IGUN guilds in the City took up the elaboration of these weapons locally. The guilds made Dane guns and also pistols which the Edos called ovbiosegba.

The Igun guilds made only arms but not ammunition Europe might have be generous to Benin with her metals and her metallurgy. But she kept her knowledge in chemistry to herself, in that Benin was never able to make gunpowder. She depended on Europe during all the intervening centuries for her supplies of the powder. And it was ultimately the same powder which was used to bring her under British control a hundred years ago.

In addition to making the implements of war the Igun guilds satisfied all that other metal needs of the Kingdom in the domestic agricultural and decorative spheres. Folklore has it that the Blacksmith guilds especially the Igun n’ Ugboha once tried their hands also It brass-working but found brass too soft a metal to handle as compared with the much harder iron. So the working of brass was left exclusively to the Igun Eronmwon

Where did the iron-working guilds get their metal raw material supplies from before Europe came calling five hundred years ago? There is some evidence that iron as metal and also as its ore were obtained from the northern territories of the present Edo State, principally from the INEME territories, in the AKOKO EDO Local Government Area. The iron-ore bearing areas of the  lneme territories extend into KOGI State as the ITAKPE Hills which are billed to supply a portion of the ore required by the AJAOKUTA Steel Complex which is under construction in that State.

The Iron ore concentrate which arrived in old Benin from the INEME territories was called akpadan, or more fully ukpadan urigho Akpadan of Two Hundred Cowries’ Worth” This Akpadan the blacksmith smelted, separating the pure metal from the slag.

The Benin blacksmith’s work became very much easier and more profile when it began to receive the one hundred percent pure metal in the form of iron rods and bars brought from Europe when the overseas trade with Europeans countries which then traded with Benin it was  HOLLAND whose trade benefited the country the most while the other European countries including Portugal and England traded with Benin largely in tinsel HALLAND included large quantities of iron bar in it merchandise. Most significantly HOLLAND introduced Benin to large quantities of the flint-lock gun the “Dane gun” which as mention earlier the City Igun Guilds learned to make. The “Dane gun” manufactured locally remains the standard fire arm even today in the towns and villages of the kingdom.

Thus the coming of Europeans to Benin from a most improbable and unexpected direction the backyard of the kingdom rather than from her from five hundred years ago freed Benin from her dependency on the Ineme territories for her iron metal needs.

But the iron-workers of the City remembering the relationship which had existed between them and the Ineme during the centuries before the Europeans came still deferred to the superior expertise of the Ineme iron workers in the handing of the iron-metal. Said the Edos

Ogun Edo gha se Ileme Ekue er kpe

"When Benin City Master Blacksmith arrives in Ineme,he works the bellows”

At the present time when the call on the services of the City Blacksmith Guilds have become few and far between the Igun n’Ugboha engages itself in the making of the ADA and EBEN ceremonial swords of State for those ennobled by the palace and so entitled to own them.
The head of this Guild is Chief Obasogie. The title is hereditary.

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